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Depression Program For Employees That Includes Telephone Outreach Intervention Shown
25 Sep 2007

According to a new study, employees with depression who take part in a program that includes a telephone outreach intervention experience fewer symptoms, work for longer and have superior job retention, compared to employees who receive usual care. You can read about this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The authors explain that depression places a huge burden on society, costing the US economy tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity alone. According to cost-of-illness studies, depression is one of the most costly of all illnesses to employers. Even though there are very effective treatments, too many employees with depression are either poorly treated or not treated at all. Those who buy corporate health benefit tend not to spend on enhanced depression screening-treatment programs as the ROI (return on investment) for such programs is unclear.

Philip S. Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H., National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md., and team looked the effectiveness of a depression outreach-treatment program on the outcomes of depression symptom relief, job retention, absence due to sickness, and higher work productivity. This randomized controlled trial involved 604 employees. They were covered by a managed behavioral health plan and had been identified in a 2-stage screening process as have significant depression.

304 workers entered the telephonic outreach care management program, which encourages them to enter outpatient treatment of psychotherapy and/or antidepressant medication. Their treatment quality continuity was monitored. Recommendations regarding treatment were also given to clinicians. Those who did not want to enter treatment were offered structured telephone cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. The other 300 employees received usual care.

By 6 months and at 12 months the researchers found that measurements of depression severity were much lower among those who received intervention, compared to those receiving usual care. 26.6% of those in the intervention group experienced recovery, compared to 17.7% in the usual care group. At 6 months and 12 months those in the intervention group worked two more hours per week than those in the usual care group - equivalent to two weeks' more work in a year.

The authors concluded "The results suggest that enhanced depression care of workers has benefits not only on clinical outcomes but also on workplace outcomes. The financial value of the latter to employers in terms of recovered hiring, training, and salary costs suggests that many employers would experience a positive return on investment from outreach and enhanced treatment of depressed workers."


Written by: Christian Nordqvist
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